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San Marino 0-2 Scotland: Kenny McLean and Johnny Russell score goals for Alex McLeish's Scotland side in Euro 2020 qualifying

Johnny Russell and Ryan Fraser celebrates for Scotland
Johnny Russell and Ryan Fraser celebrates for Scotland

Scotland made hard work of beating the lowest-ranked team in the world as they followed up defeat in Kazakhstan with a 2-0 victory over San Marino.

Alex McLeish's side failed to immediately build on Kenny McLean's headed fourth-minute opener against the lowly hosts, and many of the near 3,000 visiting fans therefore vented their disapproval towards the Scottish Football Association board, even after Johnny Russell doubled the lead in the 74th minute.

Skipper Andy Robertson admitted on the eve of the match that Scotland could only make a small start to atoning for Thursday's 3-0 loss but they barely did that.

The opening defeat looked even worse when Group I rivals Russia won 4-0 in Kazakhstan before kick-off in San Marino and ending the first two games against the two lowest-ranked teams on minus goal difference is a major setback, especially given Cyprus put five past San Marino.

The omens for a resounding win were not good. Scotland had only won 2-0 on each of their three visits to San Marino, twice on their way to reaching the European Championship finals in the 1990s.

McLeish made six changes and a bold choice in his central striking role in Cardiff's Callum Paterson - a midfielder for his club and a right-back for his country in the November wins over Albania and Israel.

Paterson and Bournemouth wide player Ryan Fraser were back in after being allowed to miss the opening qualifier under an agreement with their clubs over concerns about the artificial surface, while Robertson returned after dental surgery.

Fast starting Scotland

Scotland started with verve and McLean came close with a fierce 20-yard volley before glancing home Fraser's cross and settling the nerves.

But there was no lift-off as the tempo gradually tailed off. Russell was twice off target with half-chances before teeing up Stuart Armstrong in the 20th minute but Ella Benedettini produced an impressive double stop.

Slackness remained evident in the visitors' play and there was a scare on the half-hour mark when Jose Hirsch got in between Scotland's centre-backs and went round Scott Bain, but he shot into the side netting from a difficult angle.

Forrest replaced Armstrong in the 71st minute and soon set up Russell on the break to net from close range, with McNulty assisting matters by setting the Celtic winger free and leaving his low cross.

The final whistle was met with a few jeers but more applause from the travelling fans.

Scots frustrated

McLean admitted to some frustration that his side failed to build on his opening goal with less than four minutes on the clock.

McLean told Sky Sports: "We got off to a good start but after that it was a bit tough and we were frustrated, but we got the job done."

Russell's effort finally wrapped up victory in the 74th minute but he also admitted it had been another difficult night.

Russell said: "There is a bit of frustration and it was disappointing on the night that we didn't get more.

"The way they were playing it was tough to find spaces but we knew they were going to be like that and it was up to us to break them down."

San Marino 0-2 Scotland - Opta stats

  • Scotland have won each of their seven meetings against San Marino in all competitions, scoring 21 times without reply.
  • Since a 0-0 draw with Estonia in November 2014, San Marino have lost 29 consecutive games in all competitions by an aggregate score of 122-3.
  • Scotland have won 2-0 in each of their four visits to San Marino.
  • San Marino have conceded 37 goals since they last found the back of the net in September 2017 against Azerbaijan.
  • Kenny McClean’s opener for Scotland was their earliest goal in an away game since Darren Fletcher scored after four minutes in Scotland’s 3-0 win against Slovenia in October 2005.
  • James Forrest has had a hand in six goals in his last four appearances for Scotland (5 goals, 1 assist).
  • Ryan Fraser has been directly involved in five goals in his last three appearances for Scotland, providing at least one assist in each match (1 goal, 4 assists).
  • San Marino failed to register a single shot on target in this game.
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Most Read Football

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